Handles Feb 2010 Roundup

If Scripture is a means of God’s self revelation, then understanding it (on its terms and not ours) is of primary importance. Grabbing it by the right handle (literal parts as literal, figurative as figurative, historical as historical etc.) not only bring life to the reader, but also protects the text from saying, and humanity from doing, things that were never meant to be said or done. Understanding that the Scriptures are being co-authored – that its God’s story told through human lives and means – reminds us of the intimacy shared between Creator and creation. Continually adapting the text assures the reader that it has no shelf life, that its Truth is without expiry date.  And finally, with all this in mind, the Bible can be understood more as a transformational document then an informational one…which really has been God’s ultimate point in the first place. All told, the Bible becomes an experience to be entered, and not a book that one should probably read.

Below you’ll find some of the authors and ideas that helped form our thoughts this past month.

“You can’t help nobody if you can’t tell them the right story.” (Walk the Line)

“I always thought of my life as a story; if there is a story there must be a story teller.” (GK Chesterton)

“A storytelling friend once told me a story about an anthropologist who happened to be in an African village when the first television was introduced.  For about two weeks, the people were captivated by its images, sounds and shows.  The old man who was the tribe’s greatest storyteller stayed by his fire.  After a while, people began to drift away from the TV and gather again by the fire.  The anthropologist, observing this, asked on of the villagers why they no longer watched TV.  “Don’t you think the television knows more stories than the old man?  He’s never left the district and the TV brings in shows from around the world.”  “Oh yes,” replied the villager.  “The television knows more stories, but the storyteller knows me.””  (Dan Yashinsky)

“…our exposition must recognize that what we have in the text is proclamation.  The poem does not narrate “how it happened”, as though Israel were interested in the method of how the world became God’s world.  Such a way of treating the grand theme of creation is like reducing the marvel of any moving artistic experience to explorations in technique.  Israel is concerned with God’s lordly intent, not his technique. (Walter Brueggeman)

“… the biblical story cannot be narrowed down to something private, such as being sorry for your sins and ready to make amends. The aim is to return to God and the ways of God with his people. To return to the Story and everything and everyone in the Story. It has to do with entering a new way of life, taking up membership in the kingdom of God. Jesus is calling men and women to join him in a way of life that wills inclusion in the kingdom.” (Eugene Peterson)

“The Bible is essentially an open, imaginative narrative of God’s staggering care for the world, a narrative that feeds and nurtures us into an obedience that builds community…” (Walter Bruggeman)

“…in the course of revealing God, the scriptures pull us into the revelation and welcomes us as participants in it. What I wan to call to attention to is that the Bible, all of it, is livable; it is the text for living our lives. It reveals a God-created, God-ordered, God-blessed world in which we find ourselves at home and whole.” (Eugene Peterson)

“Tradition is the living faith of the dead; Traditionalism is the dead faith of the living.” (Jaroslav Pelikan)

“What we’ve got in the pages of the NT are first century expression of the gospel and church life, not permanent, timeless expressions. They are timely expression; they are spirit inspired expressions, but they were and remain first century expressions. We aren’t called to live first century lives in the twenty first century but twenty first century lives as we walk in the light of the revelation God gave to us in the first century.” (Scot McKnight)

“…in the journey of faith, hope and love, we are challenged. To be truly biblical does not mean being preoccupied with some golden age it the ancient world and God’s word to people back then.  It means learning for the past to let God’s story, God’s will, and God’s dream continue to come true in us and our children.” (Brian McLaren)

“Christians feed on Scripture. Holy Scripture nurtures the holy community as food nurtures the human body. Christians don’t simply learn or study or use Scripture, we assimilate it, take it into our lives in such a way that it gets metabolized into acts of love, cups of cold water, missions into all the world, healing and evangelism and justice in Jesus’ name, hands raised in adoration to the father, feet washed in the company of the son.” (Eugene Peterson)

“Unfortunately, we have been trained as informational readers, not spiritual readers.  When we do informational reading, we exercise almost total and complete control over the text.  We usually select the material we are going to read.  We read te text with our own agenda already in place, knowing in advance what we expect to receive, what problems we want the text to solve for us.  We read the text analytically, viewing it as an object over which we as subject exercise our control, to ensure that it conforms more or less comfortably to our desires and purposes.  We read the text as rapidly as possible, to amass as much information as we can in as little time as possible.  (Have you ever caught yourself marking your place and looking ahead to see how much was left?) The final goal of informational reading is our mastery of the text for the fulfillment of our purposes.
Spiritual or formational reading is the exact opposite of informational reading.  Spiritual reading is entered into best, perhaps, when the text is chosen for us–for instance, but the use of a lectionary.  This way we begin by yielding control to someone or something outside of our agenda.  This facilitates one of the primary purposes of spiritual reading–to allow the text to have control over us and become a place of encounter with God.  Instead of the text being an object controlled by us, the text becomes the subject; we, in-turn, become the “object” addressed by God through the text.”
(M Robert Mulholland Jr.)

“Juggling is a right-brain activity that involved letting yourself go, letting things happen.  To make three balls go around with two hands is so contrary to reason that it just makes you giggle.  It’s mystical.

The most interesting part of my work is learning how to touch an object, and discovering how the objects give up their secrets.  What I’m after is the essential spiritual magnetism of a shape.

I made a rule that I would never close my hand around the ball, that I would always keep my hand open.  It’s virtually impossible to have real control over an object if you’re doing that.  It was the most difficult of choice I could make, because it’s the opposite of what a juggler is supposed to do.  it offers only vulnerability.  Juggling could be less about control than about the struggle to accept the fear and turmoil surrounding uncontrollable events.” (Moschen)

“A juggler is not a secure person.  A juggler, by definition, should be an insecure person.  The exhilaration of a breathtaking performance can be shattered in an instant by the dreaded “drop”.”  Moschen who tens to acknowledge the occasional drop by gazing querulously at the wayward ball, claims not to be averse to being exposed as mortal.  “If you want to get anywhere you have to embrace failure, not flee from it.”

“Do you see what that allows you to say about the Spirit’s “failures” in Scripture?  Is the Bible’s apparent date of 4004BC for the creation of the world a problem for you in view of the astrophysicists’ contention that it happened billions of years ago?  Does the Spirit’s inclusion of factual errors give you pause? (The hare does not chew the cud, despite Leviticus 11:6.)  Are you upset by the early church’s expectations that the second coming of Christ was just around the corner?  Don’t let such things bother you.  Don’t let them take your eye off the mysterious revelation that’s at the heart of the Spirit’s whole juggling act.  They aren’t problems to be solves; they’re simply wayward cigar boxes that got out of the Spirit’s hand at one point.  They’re failures that he embraces — he gazes at just as querulously as we do — without letting them stand in the way of getting on with his astonishing performance.  When the Spirit inspires the Bible, he doesn’t operate as a puppeteer, controlling its authors and editors and reader like to many marionettes.  He deals with whatever is available to him.  He gets his way by embracing their intractability, not by overriding it.” (Mosche

“The matter is simple. The Bible is very easy to understand. But we Christians are a bunch of scheming swindlers. We pretend to be unable to understand it because we know very well that the minute we understand we are obliged to act accordingly. Take any words in the New Testament and forget everything except pledging yourself to act accordingly. My God, you will say, if I do that my whole life will be ruined. How would I ever get on in the world.

Herein lies the real place of Christian scholarship. Christian Scholarship is the Church’s prodigious invention to defend itself against the Bible, to ensure that we can continue to be good Christians without the Bible coming to close. Dreadful it is to fall into the hands of the living God. Yes, it is even dreadful to be alone with the New Testament.” (Soren Kierkegaard)

“The shortest distance between a human being and Truth is a story.” (Anthony de Mello)